We know the history of Rajapaksa family rule. Their regime is notorious for launching political witch-hunts against its opponents to outright silencing journalists and human rights defenders. Now they are back in power with an increased majority.
Four members of the same family have posts ranging from finance to defence to internal security and sports. If this was not enough 14 cabinet and state ministers serve the country whilst they are under criminal prosecution.
Gotabaya Rajapakse was on trial for pilfering 33 million in public funds. But the charges were dropped thanks to presidential immunity. The rest of the cabinet ministers such as Janaka Bandara Tennakoon is charged with murder since 1999. Johnston Fernando is on trial for misusing 40 million rupees. Wimal Weerawansa is on trial for illegal enrichment of 75 million rupees. Udaya Gammanpilla went a step further in pilfering 21 million rupees from a foreign national; an Australian businessman. Namal Rajapakse is on trial for thieving 30 million funneled through a shell company. Mahindananda is on trial for causing unlawful loss to the government of 50 million and also went on to pilfering a trade union to the tune of 3.9 million rupees.
Just between the cabinet ministers we are able to witness an eye watering amount surpassing 150 million being unaccounted and stolen from the public purse.
The state ministers such as Priyankara Jayaratne are on trial for embezzling over 330k of Sri Lankan Airlines fund. Sanath Nishantha has been on trial for assault since 2007. Anuradha Jayaratne is charged with discharging an automatic weapon on an election campaign in 2015. Prasanna Ranaweera is also charged with assault. Thenuka Vidanagamage is charged with obstruction and criminal intimidation of a deputy commissioner. Dr. Nalaka Godahewa is on trial for conspiracy to misappropriate 5 million in securities and exchange commission funds. Lohan Ratwatte is charged with the murder of 10 muslim youth, threaten to murder a deputy inspector General of police and firing at the DIG of police with an automatic rifle.
Delving further into the many cases that were filed against the now president, it is absolutely clear that this current regime does not take lightly when presented with criticism regardless of how constructive or lawful it may be. Many cases such as grave human right abuses, extra-judicial murders and the atrocities committed during the last phase of the war in Mullivaikal remains unresolved.
Ali Sabry defended Gotabaya Rajapakse in the past against all the cases filed against him; is now appointed as a minister of justice. Now as a new minister of justice, the person who defended the president against these charges will have complete access to all the investigation files, investigating officers and will also oversee prosecutors at the Attorney General’s department. As Gotabaya came into power in 2019 the list of cases that were abandoned regardless of the criminal waste of public funds and resources should spell out what is to come for the many victims that are yet to achieve justice and accountability.
It will be foolish to think that the person who defended the gross human right violator will be the one to provide relief and justice to the victims and their families. Ongoing investigations that were initialised by the previous Sirisena government have now been almost abandoned with a political witch hunt launched on the detectives investigating grave human right abuses committed by the Rajapakse regime.
The Criminal Investigation Department’s investigator Nishantha Silva slipped out of the country with his family days after Gotabaya was sworn in as the new president. Nisantha investigated Gotabaya on the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga, the rape and murder of 18 year old girl Vithya Sivaloganathan and the kidnapping and murdering of 11 Tamil boys by Ravindra Wijegunaratne the current chief of defence staff. It is no secret that this police officer fled Sri Lanka with his family due to fear of the current government in power.
Police officers and Journalists have begun slipping out of the country due to fear of reprisals from a murderous cabinet that represents Sri Lanka with the butcher Gotabaya being at the helm. The chief of justice is none other than the personal lawyer of the current president. Sri Lankan authorities have put the airport on high alert to stop more than 700 police officers from leaving the country, the co-sponsored resolution 40/1 at the UN which Sri Lanka signed in 2015 is now obsolete. The constitution is being updated to suit the rhetoric of this current despotic government which grants more power to the president. With all this in the midst, achieving truth, justice and accountability has become even more of an arduous task to the victims and their families.
Citations: Colombo Telegraph, Colombo Gazette, TRT world, Deccan Chronicle, Amnesty
Picture credits: Economynext